Today is the battle of the light weights (low curb weight, excellent fuel economy, inexpensive to operate), while they’re heavy weights in the automotive world (biggest market segment), especially in Canada. The compact arena is a smack-down, blow-out, take no prisoners fight, where customers often purchase their first brand new car. A manufacturer like Toyota needs these customers to be happy so they can put them into a Lexus in 30 years.
So let’s take a look at the lower end of the compact scale, which doesn’t mean low-end in terms of amenities and features. What would a prospective purchaser look at, and likely buy?
Toyota is going to be on their shopping list. Forget about the recalls. The brand, JD Power scores and reliability makes Toyota a must-see. Mazda, on the other hand, has groomed their image as the Zoom-Zoom company. Not just transportation, but a way of moving that would appeal to a younger market. Think of Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston. The Boston Bruins against the Toronto Maple Leafs. We all know who is going to win. But, let’s see them duke it out in any case.
The Mazda 3 GX with air conditioning would be a great start. With an automatic transmission, it lists at $18, 795. The corresponding Toyota Corolla CE with air conditioning and an automatic transmission is $18,300. Round one, to Toyota on price. Let’s take a look at what you get on each vehicle:
These vehicles are very well equipped. Independent suspensions, power mirrors, locks and windows, Bluetooth and a full array of active and passive safety measures are standard. Now, what’s different?
The personality of the cars are revealed in the value comparison. The Mazda 3 has more horsepower, bigger wheels and wider tires, and manual mode shifting for the six-speed automatic transmission. The Corolla makes do with a four-speed automatic, no manual mode shifting, and puts its value into the amenities that mainstream drivers want, such as heated mirrors, a trip computer, a split fold-down rear seat and a driver’s knee air bag. A lot of the value in the Corolla is tied up in the LED headlights, giving the nose a modern, upscale appearance. Think these models are close? Have a look at the measurements:
As the golf commentators say, “You could throw a blanket over these two, Bob”. The wheelbase and height are identical. The Mazda 3 suggests a more nimble vehicle with a smaller turning radius, and more torque. The extra front headroom and shoulder room gives the Mazda 3’s driver room to stretch, though the Corolla’s larger trunk and interior volume will make the three passengers in the car more comfortable.
Mazda can’t make a Corolla. No one would buy it. They’ve gone the driver’s car route, and judging from what I see on the road, it appears to be paying off. The Corolla shoots right up the middle of the market, with great value, a good-looking product and the legendary reliability that goes with purchasing a Toyota. Toyota won this match, but, in this incredibly competitive market, not by much. Let’s call it a split decision. Great choices. Happy shopping.